GRDF is a new partner in trials with automated vehicles led by Métropole

GRDF joined the Carreta project, an experiment aimed at testing innovative and sustainable automated vehicle solutions, launched by Métropole in July 2021 and supported by the CARA competitiveness cluster.

Thus, GRDF has developed an autonomous vehicle equipped with sensors that can provide preventive monitoring of buried gas networks, using the technological expertise of TwinswHeel, a start-up company in the Occitanie region. Starting this month, this automated vehicle will be able to traverse Montpellier’s pedestrian district on a predetermined circuit. This experiment dedicated to the use of gas complements the logistics uses already started with the project partners La Poste and STEF.

Michael Delafosse reminds that “The automated vehicle is a valuable new tool to reduce the impact of logistics and service activities in urban centers. We are pleased to welcome GRDF to the Carreta project, thus extending the experiment started last year to the use of gas network monitoring.

Test in network monitoring service

GRDF manages and maintains over 200,000 km of gas distribution network. Today, pipeline monitoring is done on foot, using a network surveillance vehicle (VSR) or even drones for aerial pipelines. The autonomous vehicle will enable this control of networks, especially in places where VSRs cannot access, such as pedestrian zones in city centers, parks and gardens.

Equipped with the same airborne methane detection sensors as the VSR, this scale model helps people above all, as it can carry up to 600 kg of equipment. If a leak is suspected, a technician then conducts a series of additional analyzes and, if necessary, calls an intervention team.

Innovation serving a high level of industrial safety

An autonomous car equipped with gas sensors will drive autonomously on the pedestrian streets of Montpellier; tests will be conducted under real conditions. This experience will allow to define the operational methods to be applied to deploy it in other urban areas. GRDF teams will pay particular attention to the acceptance of this autonomous vehicle by local residents.

Marie-Françoise L’Huby, technical and industrial directornotes that “Participating in this project is a great first for GRDF and a real opportunity to prepare for the future by experimenting with tomorrow’s technological solutions. Through these experiences in a real context, GRDF can thus study the future application of advanced technologies in the service of its public service missions.

GRDF integration, ability to extend use cases for the Carreta project

The Carreta project, co-financed by ADEME as part of the Future Investment Program, is one of 16 national experiments selected by the state to assess the development potential of the autonomous vehicle sector in France. The use cases originally planned and currently implemented as part of the project are urban delivery of goods to assist the postman in delivering parcels and mail for La Poste and fresh food for STEF. . The GRDF use case covers urban services in pedestrian areas in addition to the logistics of the Carreta project use cases.

The Carreta project, an experiment evaluated by researchers

Assessment of solution maturity and technological, environmental, customary, economic, social and societal relevance is at the core of the Carreta project. Thus, several research laboratories are associated with the project to evaluate:

  • Thanks to the experience of System X, a French public-private partnership research institute dedicated to digital transformation, the security of the solution,
  • SDGs – Operational Design Domain (autonomous vehicle operational domain) – can be achieved with the participation of CEREMA: under what conditions (weather, infrastructure) can an autonomous vehicle drive safely? ,
  • The acceptance of the service through the Chair of Cit.Us of the University of Montpellier and VEDECOM,
  • User behavior with CEREMA,
  • Unit and service environment analysis through Mines d’Alès and ENPC,
  • management, ENPC, VEDECOM and by the Chair of Montpellier University Cit.Us.

The next steps of the experiment

After the first stage of technical approval of autonomous vehicles, the next stages of the project are as follows:

For STEF & La Poste usage in the Antigone district:

  • September 2022 – June 2023: technical work and idle rounds with a close surveillance and security operator (OSS)
  • June 2023 – December 2023: cargo transportation and remote OSS

For STEF, La Poste and GRDF use cases in the Ecusson district:

  • January 2023 – March 2023: technical works with OSS nearby
  • April 2023 – June 2023: Technically works with OSS remotely
  • July 2023 – August 2023: white works with remote OSS
  • September 2023 – December 2023: movements of goods with remote OSS

Note that demonstrations for the GRDF use case will be organized during the day, but driving will take place at night.

About GRDF

GRDF, the main operator of the gas distribution network in France, distributes gas for heating, cooking and transport to more than 11 million customers every day, regardless of supplier. For this, in accordance with its public service missions, GRDF designs, builds, manages and maintains Europe’s largest distribution network (204,239 km) in more than 9,500 municipalities, guaranteeing the safety of people and property and the quality of distribution.

Gas is a modern energy, available, economical and more and more respectful of the environment. With the rise of green gas, a locally produced renewable gas, the gas grid is an important link in the environmental transition. GRDF is an important partner in supporting local authorities towards carbon neutrality through their energy policies and sustainable mobility options.

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